Warriors second-year big man Ekpe Udoh started at center against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night. And after the way he played, many Golden State fans will be hoping it's permanent.
With usual starter Andris Biedrins out with flu-like symptoms, Udoh registered a career-high 19 points in a career-high-tying 39 minutes as the Warriors beat the Clippers 104-97.
Udoh made 9 of 14 shots to go with eight rebounds (including a career-high six offensive boards) and two blocks as Golden State snapped a three-game losing streak.
"He was great. Absolutely great," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "He had an opportunity tonight and truly took advantage of it. The way he's played the last month or so has been great, and (Monday night) was the icing on the cake."
Unfortunately for the Warriors (12-17), Udoh left the game after he banged his left knee late and did not return. X-rays were negative. Udoh's sprained left knee will be re-evaluated Tuesday.
Before he left, though, Udoh brought the kind of production and presence to the center position the Warriors have been craving.
Throw in 32 points from guard Monta Ellis and a 24-point and 13-rebound double-double from David Lee, and the Warriors proved to be too much for the third-best team in the Western Conference.
"You have enough trouble trying to stop Monta and (Stephen) Curry," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "When you throw Udoh into it, it gets a lot tougher."
"I've just got to keep working," Udoh said. "I have to take advantage of the opportunities. I will do whatever coach Jackson needs me to. I'm just trying to help this team win."
Even with Udoh's performance, the Warriors still found themselves in a tight game. In what was a break from the norm, Golden State made the necessary plays down the stretch to hold off the Clippers.
With four minutes left, Udoh grabbed an offensive rebound and dropped it in with two hands to tie the game at 95. Moments after Los Angeles took the lead back, Curry drove the lane and whipped a pass back out to Brandon Rush, who nailed an open 3-pointer.
After Curry secured a stop with a defensive rebound, which the Warriors couldn't do in Saturday's loss at Memphis, Ellis put the Warriors ahead 100-97 with a driving layup at the 1:23 mark.
Ellis' basket all but sealed it as Golden State held the Clippers scoreless over the last 3:15.
Jackson has said he was sticking by Biedrins as his starter. But after Monday's performance, it sounded as if Jackson were laying the foundation for a change at center.
"The way he played tonight, he gives us something totally different," Jackson said when asked if Udoh is his starter. "I will take my time and assess our basketball team and we'll move forward. But he certainly is a guy that, when opportunity presented itself, played well enough to demand more minutes."
Certainly, the fans are going to want Udoh in the starting lineup.
With just under a minute and a half left, after Ellis' driving basket, the Oracle Arena crowd was in mid-celebration. Then when it saw Udoh on the ground clutching his knee, the noise fell to a concerned hush.
Eventually, Udoh got up and walked off under his own power. And you could almost hear the sellout crowd collectively sigh in relief. Their new choice for starting center appeared to be OK.
On March 2, 1962, Chamberlain scored an NBA record 100 points. No film of the game exists.
Of course, Attles still loves talking about the game because of his 17 points (he knocked down all eight of his shots) and because that night in Hershey, Pa., he watched one of the greatest of all-time pull off what now seems impossible.
"There are two things I remember most about that game," Attles said at a news conference before Monday's game. "One, we won the game. And the other is, Wilt tried to come out of the game before he got the 100th point.—
Attles and Tom Meschery, another Warriors great who was a rookie on that team, commemorated the 100-point game by telling stories about that legendary night.
Chamberlain wowed the 4,000-plus fans at The Wigwam. He took 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, making seven. He also took 21 shots from the field in the quarter, making 12. He finished 36 of 63 from the field and 28 of 32 from the foul line. And he also had 25 rebounds while playing all 48 minutes.